By Eve Olson, Client Relationship Coordinator, Wellness Works Canada
Burnout is a word most people have heard once or twice before. Although it may be brushed off by employees and leaders, it is a reality that many have to deal with at some point in their career. It is reported that 84% of employees experienced burnout during 2020. With a rise in working from home, individuals are challenged with separating their work from their personal life and ensuring they do not spend “free time” working. This article dives into what burnout is, how to recognize it, and how to address and prevent it.
What is Burnout?
As defined by the World Health Organization, burnout is “[a] syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. However, it is not considered a medical condition or illness. According to Gallup, causes of burnout include:
Unfair treatment at work
Lack of support
Unreasonable time pressure
4 Ways to Prevent Burnout In Your Workplace
Although it is likely that employees will experience burnout at some point in their career, there are numerous ways to reduce the chances of burnout within a work environment. Monthly check-ins to gauge how your employees are feeling is a great way to start as it shows employees that you care. Building a psychologically safe work environment is also key as it will facilitate honest feedback. The following are three strategies that can be used to help prevent burnout in your workplace.
Make Well-being Part of Your Culture: Physical and mental well-being can help reduce the possibility of experiencing burnout
Educate employees about burnout
Include topics such as what burnout is, signs and symptoms and how to prevent it
Provide employees with resources and information on how to use them
Resources can cover topics such as mental and physical well-being
As a leader, model self-care and healthy practices
Develop and implement a workplace health and performance strategy
Provide Strategies to Manage Workload
Remind your employees that their coworkers are able to assist them
Encourage teamwork to complete tasks
Educate employees on proper break times (I.e when to have a break and for how long)
Create Regular Mental Well-being Check-ins a Part of Your Routine
Be vulnerable with your own struggles and find out how your team is really feeling. Even a one-word check-in can make a difference. But remember, fine is not a feeling.
Engage and Include Employees
Include employees while creating their work plan and allow for autonomy
Ensure they have a voice in what work they are doing
Make sure employees are invested in their work
Provide constructive feedback to employees
Provide a psychologically safe space for employees to give feedback or voice their concerns
How to Recognize Burnout
As a leader, it is important to understand what burnout may look like from an outside perspective. This way, once you recognize that an individual may be experiencing burnout, you are able to offer support. Signs of burnout to watch out for include:
Reduced motivation and interest in work
Negative feelings towards work
Reduced efficiency and productivity
How to Support Someone Who is Dealing With Burnout
Once you recognize that an employee may be experiencing burnout, you need to know how to properly support them. The main goal of this process should be to ensure that the employee feels supported. It is important to recognize that different strategies work for different people and there is not one solution that will fit the needs of every employee. Make sure to listen to and consider their needs when developing a plan to move forward. Some things to consider include:
Identify the root cause
Ask if there is anything the employee can pinpoint that is causing them stress
Identify how to best support the employee
Ask transformational questions like: What would be different if you were supported better and how can we achieve that together?
Consider how workload could be better managed (try the ‘four D’ approach - what can we Do, Delay, Delegate, Don’t Do)
Consider additional recognition
If there are tasks the employee would like retraining on (if applicable)
Get feedback on what else you or the organization can do to support the employee
Set goals with the employee
Goals should focus on measures of work and measures of how the employee is feeling
Make sure the goals are specific, measurable, workplace-related and time-specific. It is also helpful to identify potential obstacles and a plan to overcome those before moving forward with goals.
The bottom line is, that many employees are likely to experience burnout at some point in their career but support can go a long way to prevent it or to help get people back on track. Prevention, recognition, and support are all sufficient ways to lead your team to success.
Want more support? Check out these resources for more information on creating a healthy work culture that can address or prevent burnout.
An assessment tool to determine if your organization is at risk for burnout from Workplace Strategies for Mental Health
Workplace training for leaders to address the root factors influencing burnout
Employer memberships that include external support to help you in surveying employees, auditing current practices and providing simple, effective recommendations
Additional Wellness Works Canada resources and other articles
Tips, Tricks and Essentials for a Healthy Workload: A Practical Guide for Employees or Leaders to Manage Workload
A Guide to Mindfulness at Work
About the Author
Eve is currently a fourth year Kinesiology student at the University of Alberta and completing her practicum with Wellness Works Canada. Her education has sparked interest in health promotion and population health and she has become very passionate about workplace health and wellness while completing her practicum. When Eve is not focusing on school, she enjoys trying new coffee shops, practicing yoga and river valley walks with her two dogs.